After enduring a grueling 118-day strike, the longest strike in Hollywood’s history, actors can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the union representing over 160,000 actors, has announced the end of the strike with the acceptance of a new deal valued at a staggering $1 billion. This groundbreaking deal not only marks a significant victory for the actors but also introduces crucial protections against the growing influence of artificial intelligence (AI) in the film industry.
An Unprecedented Agreement
SAG-AFTRA revealed that its negotiators reached a unanimous decision to end the strike on November 9 at 12:01 am. The union successfully secured a comprehensive agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade group representing major Hollywood studios such as Disney, Universal, Warner Bros., and Discovery. This new deal incorporates innovative provisions to safeguard actors from the looming threat of AI.
Throughout the negotiations, the use of AI and 3D scanning emerged as contentious issues for the actors. While 3D scanning of actors has been employed in the film industry for special effects since the 1980s, its prevalence has grown exponentially with advancements in technology. Some background actors even disclosed that they were being scanned for a mere day’s work, with film studios retaining perpetual rights to their likeness. However, the emergence of commercial AI, especially generative AI, raised significant concerns among actors. There was a pervasive fear that studios could manipulate their digital likenesses beyond the scope of their contracts, leading to potential financial loss.
As the film industry welcomed an array of tech startups keen on digitizing actors’ likenesses as “digital twins,” the need for contractual protection against AI became imperative. UK-based Metaphysic and other companies have already commenced partnerships with actors, musicians, and performers to create digital versions of themselves. These “digital twins” not only open new avenues for monetization but also introduced potential risks to the livelihood of actors. Negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the major Hollywood studios reportedly hinged on securing consent and compensation for actors in relation to AI scans. Furthermore, concerns arose regarding the rights to use scans of deceased performers without the approval of their estate, prompting a controversial discussion surrounding the so-called “zombie clause.”
A Compromise for the Future
To the relief of actors worldwide, SAG-AFTRA’s negotiators managed to find common ground on these pressing issues. Although specific terms of the agreement have yet to be fully disclosed, signs of compromise are evident. The tentative agreement is currently slated to last for three years, after which the union will return to the negotiating table. This temporary arrangement highlights the ever-evolving nature of the entertainment industry and the need for continual adaptation to emerging technologies such as AI.
While the precise terms of the agreement remain undisclosed, the monumental impact of this deal is undeniable. SAG-AFTRA has expressed excitement over the extraordinary scope of the contract, emphasizing “above-pattern” minimum compensation increases, unprecedented consent and compensation provisions to combat AI threats, and the introduction of a streaming participation bonus. Additionally, the agreement sees substantial raises in the Pension & Health caps, which will greatly benefit the union’s members. The deal also encompasses various improvements for background performers and includes critical contract provisions to protect the interests of diverse communities.
A New Era for Sustainable Careers
With this historical agreement, SAG-AFTRA has paved the way for sustainable careers within the film industry. Actors from all categories can now forge a path towards longevity, prosperity, and creative fulfillment. The far-reaching impact of this deal promises to benefit both current and future generations of performers, ensuring that their hard work and talent are adequately recognized and rewarded.
The end of the longest strike in Hollywood history signifies a significant triumph for actors worldwide. This new deal, valued at a staggering $1 billion, introduces cutting-edge protections against the encroaching presence of AI in the film industry. While the specifics of the agreement have yet to be fully revealed, the future looks promising for actors as they embark on a new era of sustainable careers in Hollywood.